How Much Should An Author Be Paid to Speak? Should You Speak for Free?

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I’ve been intrigued to examine the furore in The Times that Joanne Harris, writer of Chocolat, has pulled out of a book competition due to the fact organisers are best paying her a £50 charge. Even more so, that other luminaries consisting of Philip Pullman are springing to her defence and calling for a boycott of literary gala’s that don’t pay costs. Of rather more subject to me would have been the truth that competition organisers were trying to tie her into a six-week exclusivity clause – although this is referred to as some thing of an aside.

As a person who has organised literary festivals and conferences for over two decades (for organizations ranging from The Arts Council of England to the Oxford Literary Consultancy), in addition to being an writer-speaker in my personal right, I want to assume that I can see each sides of the debate.

I recognize the superhuman attempt that goes into organising an event: working 60-hour weeks and having sleepless nights so as to ensure a complete house. I additionally realize what it’s want to spend half of an afternoon journeying to an occasion, then be expected to present your all on stage with out a lot as a bathroom destroy or a cup of tea.

First, before we examine the specifics of how plenty an writer need to be paid and what can reasonably be anticipated of you when you speak, permit’s take a look at the advantages of speakme at an event and why you may want to do it within the first region:

1. Bums on seats

People mistakenly assume that once an occasion has been organised, the tickets will routinely sell themselves. This is a ways from being the case, even when you have an high-quality line-up of huge-call audio system. It can take months of hustle to promote-out an event and ensure a complete residence. This approach calling in favours and mailing to other people’s newsletters. It way shamelessly asking pals, own family, work colleagues, and all of us else you understand, to buy tickets. It manner promoting the event in newspapers and magazines. It can suggest putting in place an associate scheme in order that fee is paid to everyone who sells your tickets. To sum up, it’s miles a huge problem and a massive headache – irrespective of whether it’s a large occasion for a thousand or a small occasion for 50 people.

It’s a pleasure to arrive at an occasion and spot that there’s status room simplest. What you do not see is all of the difficult paintings and problem that introduced those people in.

2. Events cost massive bucks.

A venue for round 500 people in significant London can price around £5,000 to £10,000 in keeping with day. That’s before you even pay for the "extras": the sound gadget, the white display screen, the microphones, the degree, the curtains, the lights, the curler banners, the flipchart and pens, even the jugs of water behind the room. That’s earlier than you get fancy and start presenting attendees cups of coffee or a buffet lunch. Everything in a venue fees cash. You’re typically anticipated to e-book upfront based on numbers which you can not be certain of.

Then, there is the liability coverage and value of the advertising; the net and offline advertising and marketing. All told, the usual charges for website hosting a 2-day event for 500 human beings in London are around £forty,000. And the organiser gets to take all the economic chance. Do you really want this degree of monetary threat? Are you inclined to continue to exist on 4 hours sleep in line with night for weeks on quit? Or would you as an alternative maintain your sanity and save your energies for writing and promoting your next ebook?

three. You’ll want returned-up

Every event desires a team. If there are more than 30 people in the room, you will need stewards to check tickets and direct people to their seats. You’ll want runners to fetch and bring microphones and flipcharts for the audio system. You’ll want technicians to position up the staging and lightning, and stick gaffer tape over the wires so that no-one trips. You’ll want safety workforce in case there may be any "trouble". Even in case you use volunteers, they will need refreshments: a breakfast, a lunch or a tea and now and again all three. And when humans don’t show up due to contamination, broken-down cars or injured cats, you will have the concern of a way to make do with a group it truly is numerous people brief.

4. Blowing your own trumpet

Most authors are clueless with regards to advertising or are cautious of sounding like a used car salesman. But as a speaker, a person else blows your personal trumpet for you. You roll as much as a venue amidst fanfare, speak for 90 mins, then bask inside the applause. You signal some books, have your image all in favour of attendees, then you disappear home to a pitcher of wine. You needn’t consider the emergency exit that is been damaged or the pc it is long gone missing at the same time as you were on degree.

5. Stress levels

You do not have to worry approximately clearing up dirty teacups and notepads. You do not should deal with Mrs Brown who left her favored headscarf below a seat on the back row or her partner who dropped her cellular telephone into the toilet inside the spoil. You do not should fear approximately the person who punched his neighbour for sitting in his seat or the footlight that set hearth to the stage curtain placing off fire alarms. You don’t should calm down tipsy speakers who display up several hours overdue without their Powerpoint slides; or who swear on stage offending a massive percentage of your Muslim target market. Nor do you have to address the whinges about the heating being too hot or too cold, or attendees asking why you’re not offering a loose organic vegan lunch. (Yes, all these things without a doubt have happened). If you have a sideline as a stand-up comic, you may advantage plenty of absurd, and regularly darkish, new fabric. But in case you pick to talk at an event, in place of web hosting one yourself, you are saving yourself from ridiculous levels of strain.

To sum up: assuming that the competition organisers have completed their job properly, you will be getting huge exposure for little price or aggro. You get to swan in after all of the paintings has been carried out, clutch the honour, and disappear.

I understand dozens of extraordinarily a success authors everywhere in the international who talk free of charge. Many of them frequently fly in to London from places like America, Canada or Australia, paying the cost of an extended-haul flight and overnight lodging out in their very own pocket.

Why do they do it? Because standing on someone else’s stage is a privilege. Because even though they’re supplied a £10,000 fee, it’s a drop within the ocean in comparison with the quantity of cash that flows in in different methods after an occasion. Some audio system choose to sell their products (books, DVDs or seminars) in the back of the room and make over six-figures in 60 minutes. Others "skim" the room – they truly offer a free gift or invite the individuals to sign on to their newsletter or weblog. They then touch them at a later date to courteously ask if they’re interested in their services or products. Where writer-audio system fail to make money from a festival, it is typically because they do not have a fascinating sufficient "provide". They provide their talk, however they do not provide their target audience a large enough incentive to take action.

So yes, it’s exceptional if you’re paid as a speaker. But to insist on a charge always, and to boycott literary fairs and occasions that don’t pay, for my part is short-sighted. When considering an invite to speak, the primary query you need to be asking yourself must no longer be: how a lot am I being paid? Instead, verify where the occasion is being held, the type of human beings within the target market, the wide variety of attendees, and the song record of the organisers. The chief question you should be asking your self is: how plenty would it not fee me – timewise and financially – to get this identical degree of exposure?

Ask for a charge, sure. But don’t make it your be-all and cease-all.

This weekend I’m driving over one hundred miles – a ride of 5 hours there and lower back – to speak at a literary pageant in Cambridgeshire. I’ve executed this for three years in a row, and I’ll be glad to maintain for every other 3. Why? Because I even have multiple clients from the previous gala’s I spoke at. Because I recognise what it takes to host an occasion of that length and calibre. And as it’s an honour to be asked.